Exploring our sister city of Leipzig in Germany, we basically became locals — thanks to a lot of help from locals themselves! It’s a whole lotta fun to spend time in a new place by skipping the touristy stuff and instead focusing on the under the radar activities, dive bars and off-the-beaten-path adventures! Here are somethings you gotta do in Leipzig to feel one with the locals.
Sip on Vietnamese Coffee
I’d like to personally thank whatever twist of fate that brought amazing Vietnamese food and coffee to Germany — seriously, so great. (Mental note to Google this history lesson later.)
I had only had cold Vietnamese Coffee before — it’s like espresso and condensed milk, but in Germany, I got to experience the hot version! The coffee is brewed in its own little pour over thing and at the bottom of the brewing coffee is the condensed milk mixing in drip by drip as the coffee brews! So nifty. Look cook when it’s brought to you — like you knew this is what it entailed all along.
DIY Bike Tour
The idea of spending all day on a bike seemed daunting to me. Yes, I indoor cycle on the regular, however my feet hadn’t hit actual pedals on an actual bike in a few years. Of course my skills came back to me and I was able to endure the hour and a half adventure there and back, and then, we didn’t want to turn our bikes in! They were so convenient and fun. Here’s what you gotta do on your bike tour of town.
- Buy strawberries from a stand. Everywhere we went in Germany, we saw these bright red strawberry stands. They were moderately overpriced and we finally broke down and bought some while on our bike ride. We ate them all before getting back on our bikes. Worth it.
- Visit the Sachen Bruchen bridge. We did a ride by past this famous bridge. Big-name musicians play there all the time because they don’t disturb the locals. You can do your research and see if any concerts are planned, but it’s totally casual. Just some musicians on a bridge playing for people sitting on blankets in a park.
- See wildlife at the Wildpark. A little confused and lost, our guide ended up taking us up to a wildlife sanctuary — because apparently that’s a thing just outside the city! We saw boars and some other hooved animals as well as a playground with a bathroom that cost money. Pass. It’s free to wander inside and worth a bike through!
- Explore the street art in the Südplatz neighborhood. German street art never disappoints! We’d hop off our bikes and snap pix — which made our bike back a tad long, not at all because we got super lost multiple times, we swear… 😉
- Visit a mine-turned-lake. Scroll down for more deets!
Drink Beer in an Alley
One of the most awkward parts of our trip was walking up to the Goldhopfer in Leipzig. We did not feel like we were in the right place, despite Google Maps insisting us to keep walking down the alley. The sun was setting and all sorts of people were out and about in what was definitely a residential area.
Finally, we made it to the beer dive called the Goldhopfer, and, much like it’s exterior, it wasn’t exactly what we expected. You’d think a craft beer bar would have dozens and dozens of taps, endless bottles and countless cans, but nope. We saw around 3 keg taps and a tiny beverage fridge and were like, dis it?
We got some beers, which ended up being delicious, and got a table — literally basically in the street. There were a few tables filled out here and then there were youths sitting opposite the street on a stoop. It was a cute little place, and no one was indoors on a gorgeous night like that!
We did venture in and talked to the coolest bartender who ended up telling us that he and his friends just bought the place and have all these big plans for the space — live music, events, etc. We gave him and It’s Not Houzie and promised we’d try to make it back for the next night’s event.
Swim in a Coal Mine Turned Lake
One of our stops on or bike tour was a quick toe dip into Cospudener See. Our guide really wanted to show us the clear water and serene views, and we totally get why. We were ankle deep when he told us that it, and a few other Leipzig lakes, used to be various mines. Cospudener was an open cast mine and then artificially filled up with water once the natural resources were done being mined.
The other lake we got to see is Markkleeberger See, pictured. This one is a little further south — about 45 minutes by bike from the city center. This lake used to be a coal mine (!!!). The concept is just insane to me. Our guide told us that some divers like to go in and try to find structures or tools used during that time. It was flooded in 1999 and then opened as a tourist attraction in 2006. There are some restaurants and even an artificial whitewater slalom course — the only one in Germany — that was constructed when Leipzig bid on a summer olympics.
Both beaches were sandy up until the water, where rocks lined the shore. Highly recommend water shoes, blankets/towels, food, beverages — all this we did not have, bc biking.
Stay at Hotel Fregehaus
We walked into our apartment at the Fregehaus and immediately felt at home. Right off the city center, we walked everywhere and had access to everything we ever needed!
I’m not sure locals really actually know or care about this hotel — I mean, it’s a hotel, specific for people who don’t live locally! However, it is super perfect for your local exploration. You walk or bike from it — never saw a car pulled up to Fregehause — and food and goods are locally sourced. Plus, you’re staying in an actual apartment with a kitchen and living room, so you definitely feel more local than you would at a hotel!
Meet the Locals
I guess the best way to do Leipzig like a local is WITH the locals! Hang out at local bars or festivals — we met the nicest people every night we were at Weinfest, which was, admittedly, a lot.
When you’re planning your trip, reach out to the Leipzig Sister City association. Our girl Lisa, who is on the board there, met up with us a couple times and gave us the greatest recommendations. It’s like a tour from a friend, rather than someone paid to be nice to you.
Explore the Art Scene
I don’t think much of Leipzig’s art scene is considered touristy. In fact, I think most of the local art and culture we experienced was done in Germany and about Germany.
Spinnerei galleries. Spinnerei, formerly the largest cotton mill of continental Europe, is now home to galleries, exhibition halls and about 100 artist studios. We wandered from gallery to gallery and shopped the art store — definitely not a tourist attraction, but where real artists by real supplies.
Kunstkraftwerk. The old power plant in Plagwitz has recently been converted into an experimental factory for art, illusion, culture, design, communication, and happenings. Some of the weirdest digital and physical art that stimulates all the senses. We loved just chilling here and watching the projected art or playing with the other exhibits in the factory.
Dance in a Discoteca
Before going to Germany, we were told we can’t end our trip without a night-turned-morning at a German club. So, we did it, and we did it twice, for good measure.
Some things to know before you go: Bring cash for cover AND for drinks, research themed nights before you go, bring a jacket if its cold (there will be a coat check), skip the heels (unless it’s a swanky place, but it probably isn’t) and limit the personal belongings you have!
So & So. A few people had recommended this place to us, but apparently it depends on what sort of themed night you go on. We planned to go out and started at the Weinfest right outside our apartment. As we did on every night at the Weinfest, we made friends with some very nice Leipziggers manning a wine stand who were telling us about So & So right when a couple next to us said, hey, wouldn’t you know it, but we’re going there too! We shared a van and wine with our new friends and made it to the club where we learned that it was basically a normal bar segmented into different rooms — some sweaty and dark with a DJ, some chill and fun. I loved So & So and because of Germany’s short nights, we got to see the sunrise from the garden in the bar.
Distillery. Feeling good about our So & So success, we agreed to try another discoteca. Things weren’t as smooth sailing for us this time. A train was out so we ended up walking quite far. Then, whoops, the bar is cash only and we were running low on Euros, since it was the tail end of our trip. This club had a nice, calm outside area like the other one, and then two indoor rooms. The upstairs being pretty similar to what you’d imagine a club in America being, and the downstairs, was (literally and figuratively) a whole other level. The room was smokey, windowless, dark and filled with flashing, colorful lights. Only one single staircase was the lone exit path, so that mentally weighed on me with the 100? 200? fellow people in this basement. We didn’t last very long down there, or at the club in general.
One of my favorite parts about European clubs is that you don’t really need to dance any certain ways. Grind if you wanna, flail your arms about, shake them hips, do whatever you gotta do to get your groove on! Literally no one cares. God bless you, German clubs.